A partnership between a Bath business and a local charity to help rough sleepers off the streets last winter has been hailed as a success.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is an initiative co-ordinated by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Housing Services team and prevents winter deaths amongst rough sleepers by providing additional emergency shelter. It is triggered by three consecutive nights of sub-zero temperatures or other extreme weather. For several years, this seasonal provision has been as a dormitory in a church hall. For the first time, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, SWEP was run within a shared home, provided by the business Vertex, and was open 24/7 for three-and-a-half months as a response to the lockdown measures implemented after the festive season.
Guests were referred to the project by the Outreach team, which is a joint project between DHI, AWP Mental Health Service and Julian House. Home Turf Lettings, DHI’s social lettings agency, provided the property management for the building, covering everything from arranging repairs and cleaning, to food deliveries and inducting guests into the property.
SWEP provided accommodation for ten guests over the course of the project, with the majority of guests staying for at least two months. Guests were loaned Amazon Fire tablets for their stay and provided with a range of frozen, canned, and fresh produce with support from the Compassionate Communities Hub. They were also able to obtain COVID vaccines whilst at the property and had support from a member of DHI’s REACH team, who provided support to the guests on finding longer term accommodation, budgeting and accessing health & wellbeing services.
During their stay, three guests moved into their own accommodation with another three moving into short term accommodation provided by Julian House.
Being the first time that SWEP was run within a shared house, it gave guests the opportunity to experience managing their own home. This gave one guest in particular the opportunity to thrive, being within a home environment for the first time in several years. During the time that the guest was within the property, they were able to show to the various teams involved in the project that they would be able to sustain a tenancy with the right support, and successfully moved into their own home.
Councillor Alison Born, joint cabinet member for Adults and Council House Building , said: “We are very grateful to Vertex for renting one of their properties to our partner, Home Turf Lettings. We are delighted with the successful outcomes. This is one of many initiatives co-ordinated by Housing Services and delivered in partnership across B&NES that is making a real difference to peoples’ lives. We would like to see this type of collaboration developed and expanded across the year, with the aim of increasing resources available and reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough or facing other forms of homelessness whatever the season.”
Matt Slade, Group Managing Director of Vertex, said: “Vertex are proud to have supported the B&NES Severe Weather Emergency Protocol by providing housing for the initiative. We’re extremely pleased to hear the fantastic outcomes the scheme has delivered and the positive impact it’s had on so many people’s lives.”
Natalie Giles, Manager of Home Turf Lettings, said: “We have enjoyed getting to know many of the guests who stayed with us over the winter period, and are really grateful to everyone involved in the project for making it such a success for our guests. We are also pleased to have been able to offer longer term tenancies to some of the guests, when properties became available within our own portfolio. If you have a house that you could let through Home Turf Lettings to someone in housing need, then email email@example.com.”